Mastering the Art of Supply Chain: A Q&A with Ferlyn Chai from Interfood Singapore
Hi Ferlyn, can you please introduce yourself?
Hello, I'm Ferlyn Chai, and I’m a Business Partner Supply Chain at Interfood Singapore. This year is quite special as it marks my 11th anniversary with the company. I'm a Singaporean, happily married, and a parent to two lovely kids—a six-year-old son and a one-year-old daughter.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you ended up at Interfood?
My journey began as a logistics coordinator in a plastic and chemical trading firm, where I had no prior experience in logistics. After three years there, I decided to enhance my skills by pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Business, specializing in Logistics and Supply Chain Management. In 2012, while seeking new opportunities, I came across a job opening at Interfood. I applied, and the rest is history. Fast forward to 2023, one decade has passed in a blink of an eye and now I’m the ‘oldest’ employee in Interfood Singapore.
What inspired you to pursue a career in your field, and what motivates you to continue working in this industry?
Initially, my role in a trading company introduced me to the world of logistics, starting from contract issuance to container bookings. And I got to learn how to read my very first letter of credit (LC). Despite numerous challenges in this fast-paced environment, the positive feedback I received for my shipment arrangements fueled my passion. This experience was a catalyst for me to delve deeper into supply chain management through further studies.
What motivates you to come to work every day at Interfood, and how does your role contribute to the company's success?
The driving force behind my daily motivation is my work and my dedicated team. I believe that a positive mood is crucial for well-being. Our recent move to a larger office space has enhanced our work environment significantly. In my role, I play a key part in decision-making processes, ranging from customer relations to planning. By working closely with my team, we strive to provide top-notch service and ensure timely and complete deliveries.
Can you talk about a project or initiative that you were particularly passionate about, and what about it resonated with you?
Interfood has embarked on several projects over the years, always aiming for continuous improvement. The Freight Saving Tracker initiative in the APAC region has been particularly impactful. We analyze freight quotations from different forwarders monthly, assess frequent shipment lanes, and project costs for each route. Comparing these projections with actual rates has led to a notable cost saving of 25% up to Q3, a milestone that propels our team forward.
What motivates you to continue growing and developing your supply chain management expertise, and how do you balance strategic planning with day-to-day operational needs?
The challenges I encounter in my role are my primary motivators. Whenever faced with difficulties, I remind myself to persevere and seek solutions through collaboration. Embracing new tasks fearlessly and prioritizing effectively are key to balancing strategic and operational demands. I always set a daily agenda and focus on the most urgent task or with the one with the tightest due date. And, learn how to say ‘NO’ to people and ask them to come back to you later, especially when you are in the midst of completing a task.
Can you share an example of how you have leveraged data and analytics to optimize supply chain performance and reduce costs for the company?
As mentioned earlier in question 5, the Freight Saving Tracker is a prime example of utilizing data and analytics to enhance performance and reduce costs.
How have you seen the field of supply chain management evolve over the course of your career, and how have you adapted to those changes?
The supply chain landscape has undergone significant transformations, especially with the spike in freight costs during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the law of demand, the price will be the key factor to determine for how much a commodity is sold. Thus, increasing the price due to higher freight costs will result in lower sales. Adapting to these changes meant seeking alternative strategies to minimize costs while navigating unpredictable circumstances.
Can you share a specific example of how Interfood's culture and values have impacted your work or the way you approach your role?
Interfood’s purpose is Together for better. This slogan already speaks loud and clear. We work as a team, with close collaboration and long-term ties with our customers and suppliers. And the company's values—Teamwork, Commitment, Continuous Improvement, Professionalism, and Responsible Leadership—have shaped my approach, especially in leadership roles. We always collaborate for both short-term and long-term successes, efficiently and effectively. For example, in planning, where we can allocate more than one brand, we as the planners will first discuss possibilities within the team before reaching out to the position holder.
What do you think sets Interfood apart from other companies you've worked for, and how has this impacted your career development?
My previous employment was with a local company that had rigid hierarchical structures and limited communication. In contrast, Interfood fosters open dialogue and flexibility, allowing for quick decision-making and employee participation. This environment has been instrumental in my career development, offering opportunities to express ideas freely and engage actively in the company’s growth.
How does Interfood foster a sense of community and teamwork among its employees, and what role do you play in this?
Teamwork is integral within my department and extends across the organization. Interfood Singapore frequently organizes team bonding events, fostering a strong sense of community. Our recent move to a larger office has further enhanced this, providing spaces like a communal pantry where we can connect and collaborate more effectively, and can have lunch together.
Looking to the future, how do you see Interfood evolving and adapting to new challenges and opportunities, and what role do you see yourself playing in this journey?
Over the past decade, I've witnessed Interfood's remarkable growth. From ten people to forty at the moment. And from a relatively small office to the great facilities we now all experience. I firmly believe that our dairy business will continue to thrive with the upcoming projects and opportunities. I'm excited to contribute to this journey, together with all the diverse talents we have at Interfood.
And finally, what would you say to potential Interfood team members?
Interfood is more than a workplace—it's like a second home offering excellent welfare for its employees. Here, you'll find a dynamic environment filled with innovative, driven, and fun individuals from diverse backgrounds. Each day presents new challenges and opportunities for growth. If you want to explore new roles, you get the chance. Want to make an impact in other ways? Interfood is there for you. So, what are you waiting for ? Come join us and be prepared to shine!
You may also be interested in one of the following pages: